The Star Wars Expanded Universe: TIE Fighter
TIE Fighter was a unique Star Wars video game title in the mid-90s. It took the strong foundation that was present in its predecessor, X-Wing, and delivered a nuanced, balanced and exciting space flight simulator. The twist was that you were now fighting for the Empire and there was, unlike in the current iteration of Battlefront, no switching sides to the Rebellion. You were immersed, unashamedly and fully, in the Dark Side of the Star Wars universe.
This was an era where LucasArts showed gamers and Star Wars fans how good licensed games from the franchise could be. This game completely sold the idea that you could rise through the ranks of the evil Empire in an authentic manner. There’s an incredible amount of fun in slipping into the polished jackboots of an Imperial pilot and the missions are incredibly varied. As your character progresses through the game, it’s evident that a lot of thought has gone into crafting an immersive and authentic story.
TIE Fighter begins during the events of The Empire Strikes Back. The Imperial squadrons are well on the way to starting a campaign to restore order to the galaxy after the Battle of Hoth. You arrive as a new pilot, just out of the Imperial Academy. Your overall mission is explained to you as capturing Rebel forces and keeping the subjects of the Empire safe from space raiders and pirates. But as you soon find out, there are also missions available for those who wish to serve the Emperor directly. This then diverges from the cinematic universe, seeing you travel to a new star system and eventually attempt to defeat a mutiny within the Imperial fleet. It is this aspect of the game which makes it eligible for inclusion in the Expanded Universe narrative. In fact, in the excellent opening introduction scene, we clearly see Thrawn – at the moment a Vice Admiral in the fleet, working to undermine the Rebel Alliance from his Star Destroyer. This is a character wonderfully crafted by Timothy Zahn in his original trilogy of novels which actually renewed interest in the franchise and kickstarted the Expanded Universe idea.
The missions begin with ‘peacekeeping’ objectives; these are to suppress civil conflicts which undermine the Empire’s influence or economy on smaller worlds. This grounds the game in a form of reality; we can imagine while playing through it that these would be the initial missions that a fledgling Imperial pilot would be placed on while proving themselves. TIE Fighter‘s plot exposition doesn’t rely on cutscenes; instead, it’s told through the mission briefings and through the events of the missions themselves. Each mission has a series of Primary and Secondary objectives and some of them happen right under your nose – you won’t see them unless you explore and deviate slightly from your main objective. Therefore the game actively rewards and encourages your exploration of the level to the fullest. On one mission, an Imperial officer was defecting to a Rebel ship; I only noticed this as I moved away from the cargo ships I was tasked with protecting – so I gunned him and his Rebel friends down. Doing this not only raises your score but increases your chances of joining the Emperor’s Secret Order of TIE Fighters…now I bet that has got your attention.
So once you are initiated into the Secret Order, things change slightly. A secretive figure appears, offering you a different series of side missions to undertake. Whilst playing through the missions your flight commander gives you, sometimes you will be asked to deviate from your instructions – but it’s always for the good of the Empire. It’s here that the game totally excels, making you feel that you are working for the Emperor himself.
The combat in the game is astounding and the pew-pew sound effects are spot on, sampled from the films. Scoring a hit on a Rebel X-Wing is a thrilling experience as you watch the Rebel scum explode into a thousand pieces to be scattered like dust across the cold harsh landscape of space. The control mechanic does take a little time to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, you will be pulling off advanced combat maneuvers in no time.
This game be found at Good Old Games